During the 14 months I've written this blog, I've vacillated back and forth. Sometimes I love writing it and sometimes I don't. Lately, I've begun thinking that once again I need to broaden my interests and move on with my life. I learned more about being bipolar from writing this blog and reading other people's comments than from all the doctors I've met with, and research I've done--for almost 15 years.
But I'm suddenly feeling like the blog is "holding me back" from moving on with my life. In a way that's good because it means that I'm truly healing. Prior to being "the bipolar wellness writer," I was a writer--without any qualifiers. And maybe it's time once again to write about a wide range of interests rather than remaining so narrowly focused.
During this transition--which is what I feel I'm experiencing--I'll continue to write this blog until I decide upon a new direction to pursue. And I've decided to devote my final posts to information and advice for bipolar newbies. In years past, I often have asked myself, "What if...
What if...I had been given better information or had been able to find better information when I was first diagnosed? How would that have changed things for me?
Obviously, I can't change the past, but perhaps I can provide a better future and an easier present for others. So...my posts until the end of the month--which will probably be my last posts on this site--at least for now...will answer some of those "what ifs," and I'll also provide some information and advice that I wish I'd been given.
Caveat: As you all know, I am not a doctor. If I'm providing medical information, I will site different resources. If I'm expressing my personal opinion, I'll let you know. Understand that the very nature of the items I'm including in these final posts represent an opinion of sorts.
Make sure the diagnosis is the correct one. There are sites where you can take tests for mania and depression. I'm including a Depression Screening Test from the Department of Psychiatry at New York University (There are plenty of others, which you can find online.) and a Mania Screening Test from the DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance). Read about manic and depressive symptoms. Understand that it takes some people years to get the correct diagnosis, and some people are misdiagnosed.
In terms of a diagnosis, what doctors are doing is trying to do is to match your symptoms to a disease that is quantified in their psychiatric bible, which is called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).
Bipolar I is described as "characterized as one or more manic or mixed episodes." Bipolar II is characterized by the presence or one or more major depressive episodes, and one or more hypomanic episodes. The Massachusetts General Hospital Bipolar Clinic and Research Department also discusses Cyclothymic Disorder, and Bipolar III (which is not a true category but which they find to be helpful in their research and in dealing with patients).
If I were starting out, I'd read what different organizations and people have to say about this illness. When I was researching the nuts and bolts of bipolarity, I frequently visited the following sites: PsychEducation.org (founded by Jim Phelps, M.D.), Dr. Bob, Ph.D. (he's a pscyhology professor from the University of Michigan), Internet Mental Health (founded by Phillip Long, M.D.), Depression Central (founded by Ivan Goldberg, M.D.), the Black Dog Institute, and the National Institutes of Mental Health (actually I don't agree with a lot of information they provide nor with the way they spend their mental health budget, but within the United States, this is where my tax dollars go), The Stanley Medical Research Institute, and NARSAD.
If anyone has other resources on this topic, other points of view, or other experiences to share, I welcome your input. (I will respond to comments, but I won't answer any medical questions on this series for obvious reasons.)